Coronel R1 Guilherme Otávio Godinho de Carvalho
In celebrating 200 years of independence, Brazil celebrates important achievements and significant advances in the process of nation building. The Brazilian Army, an inseparable fraction of the society it serves and an actor of undeniable relevance in the consolidation of the State and the formation of the Nation, rejoices in the context of these celebrations, while reaffirming its commitments to vehemently face future challenges.
In the attempt to unveil some possibilities for the future of Brazil, the present essay aims at raising some thoughts on the continuation of the country’s trajectory, emphasizing the role of the Brazilian Army and the Defense Sector in the process of managing future challenges. In this context, it is necessary to emphasize the weight and value of the elements of permanence that characterize and underline Brazilian military thought, the core structure of our strategic culture.
Military thinking is understood as that which embodies reflections about themes and issues inherent to typically military activities, such as war (the use of force) and the solution of critical problems related to it. In a broader context, it is intertwined with strategic thinking. History shows that in Brazil, the significant participation of the military in the formation of the State and the Nation consolidated a very characteristic Brazilian military thought, which, for its own circumstances, goes beyond the aforementioned understanding.
Thus, if we briefly understand strategic culture as the sum of ideas, perceptions, and beliefs that guide and circumscribe the way of thinking about national strategic issues, it is possible to infer the relevance of the influence of Brazilian military thought in the construction of a typically Brazilian strategic culture. Thus, it is possible to observe the influence of this culture on the Brazilian state’s defense model. “Heads think where feet tread”.
Strategy has many dimensions and one of them is cultural, a component variable of national strategic thought. From the above, ideational elements of permanence, interconnected with the larger idea of an indeclinable and extended responsibility for initiatives, actions and projects devoted to the construction and consolidation of the foundations of the national state, compose the reference framework for the formulation of Brazilian strategic thinking. The slogan of the Brazilian Army – “Braço Forte, Mão Amiga” (Strong Arm, Friendly Hand) – materializes well the essence of the idea presented, communicating, through four words, the synthesis of the Institution’s commitment to the State and to the Nation it serves. We are what we do!
Brazil is a country of continental dimensions. Because of our territorial characteristics, our geography poses us relevant challenges for the configuration of an effective defense model: abundance of natural resources, irregular population distribution, extensive coastline, land border of almost 17,000 kilometers (most of it dry), peculiar physiographic factors, etc. Its political-strategic stature is significant, constituting a worthy actor in the international system.
The Brazilian State communicates, through the country’s main defense documents – National Defense Policy, National Defense Strategy and National Defense White Paper – that our main strategic postures are presence and dissuasion. The widespread military presence is justified by the challenges that demographic vacuums present for national integration and cohesion. In the Amazon, these are added to the difficulty of mobility and the natural riches present in that region. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering the historical role of the military segment in the consolidation of the land frontier in the northern part of our territory – especially through the establishment of a robust set of forts -, connecting the Defense sector to that region for a long time.
As for deterrence, the main challenge focuses on obtaining the necessary capabilities to produce the required credibility. It is worth remembering that, besides a credible force that supports the coercive positioning that discourages an action that affronts the Brazilian State, an effective strategic communication and the political will to execute the dissuasive actions communicated make up the tripod of the strategic posture of deterrence. Thus, it is fair to infer that strategic planners of the Defense Sector invariably face some inexorable questions: what are our defense priorities? How can we ensure the attainment of the necessary defense capabilities in the face of resilient budgetary uncertainties? What employment strategies should we prioritize? What is the ideal force design?
Thinking about national defense in an integrated way, prioritizing challenges and establishing objectives (strategies and strategic actions) in a joint and unified manner – as a Defense Sector – is a sign of political and strategic maturity. The creation of the Ministry of Defense (MD), in 1999, is an important milestone in the process of evolution and maturation of national defense. Notwithstanding the resilient challenges, Brazil has advanced in the undeniable objective of making its Armed Forces more interoperable, prepared and capable. The Brazilian Army, aligned and committed to the faithful fulfillment of its constitutional missions, implements a transformation process that aspires to an “increasingly stronger arm”, without neglecting its perennial commitment to the “helping hand”.
The MD, as a structure of the Executive Branch, is the main political actor responsible for promoting interaction and cooperation with other government sectors that are related to the country’s defense, especially those related to national development and foreign affairs. Defense is in dialogue with development when it supports the actions of the state to reduce its structural deficiencies (through subsidiary or other extraordinary actions), as well as when it collaborates in the promotion of technological and productive autonomy in the area of defense, stimulating research and the development of critical technologies. Diplomacy, progressively, articulates itself in diversified arenas where the guarantee and defense of national interests is necessary. Foreign and defense policies are, naturally, complementary and inseparable.
An accurate reading and understanding of the international scene is fundamental to the identification of geopolitical and geostrategic implications for Brazil, particularly in relation to the defense field. In an effort to summarize, the challenge to the post-World War II liberal international order (an order ratified at the end of the Cold War), led by the United States, can be highlighted as the central dynamic governing contemporary international relations. Although this is not a consensus, it is even fair to infer that the phenomenon has the potential to propel an eventual process of global hegemonic transition.
In this context of transformation of the world power structure, characterized by the emergence of new poles of power, the competition between the great powers is intensifying, with inevitable spillovers into the regional chessboards. Thus, we live in a multipolar world (in fact, a bipolar multipolarity), marked by the increase of disputes for spaces of influence that may confer advantages and opportunities to national interests. Certainly, a more conflictive and insecure world.
From a geostrategic point of view, this framework points to a restructuring of the global security architecture. The current systemic reconfiguration of the world balance of power boosts the relevance of hard power – economic and military – as well as motivates the remodeling of partnerships and alliances. In this scenario, the urgent need for adjustments in the establishment of national objectives and strategies becomes evident. Brazil, an intermediate regional power, endowed with significant power resources, must face this scenario of uncertainties and readjustments with the sobriety that its political stature requires.
This implies the need for the Brazilian state to draw up a grand strategy that is clear, articulated, functional, and coherent with the national reality. Based on an integrated vision of the country, adopt a strategic planning mechanism that allows for the guarantee and defense of the national interest in all its manifestations. A project for the nation that reaches the main demands and guides how to overcome the core challenges for the inclusive, sustainable and robust development of Brazil. As a fundamental assumption, it is obviously necessary to have an honest and complete diagnosis, associated with the necessary follow-up (and evaluation) of the conjuncture – methodical, systematic and permanent work. Strategic intelligence, with volume and quality. Knowing ourselves, in depth, is part of our homework!
From the set of medullar challenges for Brazil, it is possible to highlight some of them, among which are: to guarantee its sovereignty, both political and territorial; to increase productivity, with gains in competitiveness; to reduce social inequality; to mitigate the scourge of public insecurity; to advance, robustly, in S,T&I, with a reduction in external dependence in the sector; and to manage, pragmatically, its international insertion, based on well-defined national interests.
In conclusion, some reflections on the role of the defense sector and the Brazilian Army as important actors in the continuous process of managing the above mentioned challenges are presented:
- as permanent national structures – servants of the state and the population -, continue the relentless pursuit of the highest level of professionalism, with a view to the effective fulfillment of their missions;
- renew, indefinitely, the commitment of servitude to the Brazilian nation. To the Army, to stand firm as its “strong arm, helping hand”;
- maintain the resilient search for the capabilities that credibly guarantee dissuasion as the state’s strategic posture;
- increase interaction with diplomacy, aiming to optimize and guarantee the defense of national interests, as well as elevate the name of Brazil in the concert of nations;
- assist in the incessant process of increasing national development; and
- guarantee, as a fundamental commitment, Brazil’s non-negotiable political and territorial sovereignty.
*** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI Team ***